During his 10-plus seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, defenseman Jakub Kindl had a front-row seat to watch the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom work his mastery on the blue line. He also played with Brian Rafalski in Detroit, and later with Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers.

Kindl, who is winding down a strong career at home in Czechia, knows a thing or two about great defensemen, which is why the 35-year-old was a bit skeptical heading into this past season with HC Plzen.

For two years, he’d been hearing about a young defenseman named David Jiricek, who played his way out of a small town to make his debut in the country’s top league in 2019-20 when he was only 15 years old.

“I’d heard all about David Jiricek, but I was to myself saying, ‘Let’s see how good this kid really is,'” Kindl said. “He was playing already in the men’s league at so young an age, but I didn’t want to believe it myself until I had a chance to play with him.”

Kindl was a few drills deep in the first practice of training camp when Jiricek first stood out to him. His performance during games beginning a few weeks later only drove home the point.

“This kid was a stud already,” Kindl said. “The size, the strength … it’s all there. All of the stuff people were saying about him was true.

“He has a really good shot, and he can really move. There are lots of young guys now with skills, right? But this guy … David Jiricek is the real deal. He’s just different.”

Many NHL scouts agree with Kindl, which is why Jiricek is expected to be the first or second defenseman off the board — almost certainly among the first five or six picks — when the NHL Draft is staged July 7-8 in Montreal.

In NHL Central Scouting’s year-end rankings, Jiricek was the fourth-rated European skater, rated one spot below defenseman Simon Nemec of Slovakia.

Jiricek, who turns 19 in November, has the prototype size for a future top-pairing defenseman. He’ll be listed as 6-foot-3, 190 pounds when he’s drafted in two weeks, but will probably top out around 6-4, 220. All the while, he skates well enough to keep pace in today’s F1 pace of play.